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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What does Fatherhood mean to You?

Perhaps more than anything else in life Parenthood really stimulates my brain. Fortunately for me, I have the kind of job that affords me the luxury of driving around alone in a truck all day, day dreaming behind a dashboard about my kids and my role as a father. If i didn't I'm sure I'd be looking for a new one. I've heard it said many times that men have a "nothing box" where we drift off to from time to time. It's true. We do. From our wives perspective we stay there for the majority of our life and only poke our heads out from time to time like a sleepy groundhog looking for his shadow, and that's only when they shake us hard enough or scream loud enough to get our attention. Even then, like the groundhog, we forget what we are looking for and we don't even check the weather. We just throw on some camo cargo shorts, a tee-shirt (that may or may not match) and possibly a lightweight jacket and we strike out on our merry way as we follow our nose and let the chips fall where they may. This is not exactly the best approach when we have children in tow but I'm here to tell you that this description is UNFAIR. Okay, partially unfair. Alright, completely accurate before we became fathers but now that we have kids... partially unfair. For crying out loud, we took the time to make sure we were wearing cargo shorts with extra pockets for snacks. That has to count for something. Can we compromise on this? After all, that IS what marriage is about, right? The truth is that most of us men live our life in a perpetual trial and error. There's nothing wrong with that as long as we learn from our trials... and errors. That's where things get interesting.

Needless to say, this is NOT how our female counterparts operate. Excuse me for generalizing. I know there are exceptions to the rule but if your wife is like my wife she's always on her toes. She's sharp. She's a great planner and motherhood seemed to come naturally to her. Dare I say... she's graceful in her own special way? I count my blessings every day but honestly it was intimidating at first how she had never been a mother but when we came home from the hospital and they informed us that a doctor was not staying at our house and we were now permanent full time baby sitters, she still somehow knew what to do. Turns out, she was just flying by the seat of her pants and doing a great job of disguising it. I was too but my disguise was much less convincing. As a father who has to go back to work, and especially for a father whose wife is a stay at home mom, it's easy to take a back seat and a less involved role in the home but its something altogether amazing to fight that tendency and dive in head first.

It's safe to say that fatherhood came somewhat naturally to me as well, but not in the same ways. I'm definitely not sharp or a good planner. I'm forgetful and scatter brained. I don't possess some of those "good parent" qualities. My wife would think something was wrong with me if I didn't walk all the way to the car before realizing I needed to get the keys from inside the house in order to crank it up. If i try to get on my toes anywhere outside of a football field or basketball court I'm sure to lose my balance, but when I do I'm very quick to adjust and make things work when they don't go as planned. I like to give myself credit for at least that much anyway. I say all this to say that at some point after becoming a parent you have to ask yourself exactly what fatherhood, or motherhood for that matter, means to you. Be honest with yourself. Ask the tough questions. Do not take the easy way out. Assess your strengths and weaknesses. Grow them. Compare them to your spouses strengths and weaknesses. Try to combine them to be the best team you can be. Do you want to actively parent your children every day and give your time to them instead of using it for yourself or do you want your child to be a cute little accessory that you don't let interrupt your already fabulously flowing life? Do you think it's enough to simply provide for your child and spend your time doing what you want to do because that's how your dad did it and you turned out okay? I understand how this might sound. I'm not pointing fingers. I'm not judging. Well, kind of I am, but I'm really trying to encourage. I struggle with the balance too and it's important not to lose the identity of who you were before you became a parent, but maybe your dad was wrong. Maybe my dad was wrong. Maybe we shouldn't decide how we think proper parenting should be done and stick to it but we should make a point to learn what works from a constant trial and error that we pursue daily.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've found it healthy and unbelievably rewarding to really challenge myself and get outside of my comfort zone and do things as a parent that I didn't particularly think I'd like to do. Crazy, right? Make bath time your responsibility. Sure, we'd all like to come home after a long day at work and prop our feet up and watch some mindless television show instead of bathing a 3 year old but try using it as an opportunity to talk to your child about his day. Close the shower curtain and let him splash and have fun. No one likes changing diapers but put your nose in there (not literally) and change every diaper you can when you come home from work and give your wife a break from it on the weekends. After a certain amount of time you'll find out that it's really not all that bad and its actually a good bonding experience between you and your child where you can develop inside jokes that make your child laugh and in turn, strengthen your relationship. Plus, you'll get major brownie points from your wife which will definitely... no, probably...  okay, I can't lie. Honestly, there is a very slim chance that these actions will strengthen your sex life but it's worth a shot and that's not the motivation behind this anyway so don't get discouraged. Keep an open mind and you can find little things like this outside of your everyday routine that provide the opportunity for you to invest more time into your children. It's amazing how many opportunities there are. You just have to look for them. It's also amazing how you'll feel when you come out on the other side after having taken one of these opportunities.

I'm no professional. I've only been on this parenting gig for just under 4 years. I didn't go to college for it or pass a test to get a parenting license but somehow I lucked into this dream job and somehow I came to the realization that the only thing that makes this job seem easy is hard work and overtime. Ironically these are the exact same things that make my career seem more difficult, but it's true. I make mistakes all the time and continue my trial and error but there is one thing I'm sure of. If someone asks me, "What does fatherhood mean to you?" I will reply, "Time and effort and love and gratitude and more time and more effort and more love and more gratitude." I will mean that and I will live it. I have no choice at this point. I used to think these boys locked my nothing box and lost the key in a toy box somewhere along with that old bluetooth that disappeared a few years back, but then I realized I was wrong. They found the key, unlocked the box and took up a permanent residence along with their toys and tears and smiles and laughter and poop. We're still working on getting the poop out of there. Like I said, it takes time...and trial... and error too, unfortunately. The important thing is that the effort is there.
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  1. When I first read this I just so happened to be wearing camo cargo shorts! And for the record all T-Shirts match with camo! :)

  2. Thanks for coming around and listening to someone *nudge*.

  3. Enjoyed your perspective- I'm happy to see more dads talking about parenting in the blogging world :)

  4. Touching post, you are clearly doing a great job and we are all learning on the job aren't we. Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts x

  5. Thanks for reading and commenting guys!! Thanks for hosting #brilliantblogposts Honest Mummy!!! I'm slowly but surely figuring out this blogging world. :)